Monthly Archives: April 2010

Beet and Orange Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Remember the other day, when I promised to tell you about a beet salad I brought to the Dallas Food Bloggers potluck? Well, I always want to make good on my promises, so here goes.

I can’t take credit for this recipe. Wish I could, as it’s absolutely divine. Of course, I love beets, particularly roasted beets. But this salad truly makes them shine. It’s a great way to eat something that makes your mouth feel good, and it’s good for your body!

About a month ago, I won a book called Vegetarian Planet by Didi Emmons over at one of my favorite blogs, Cookin’ Canuck.  (Warning: If you’re the least bit hungry, be careful visiting her blog. She has some of the most delectable recipes, and even more delicious photos!) This book was something that I would have likely passed by if I was browsing at a book store. It’s just not something I’d gravitate towards. (sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between the good and the bad with these monster-sized cookbooks.) I’m so glad this didn’t happen, and that I was lucky enough to win a copy. As soon as I opened the book, I couldn’t put it down. Recipe after recipe sounded mouth-wateringly delicious. If you think a vegetarian diet means boring or restrictive meals, this book will make you change your mind.

After debating where to start, I finally decided on this recipe. I was in love. While I did grill steaks for my husband and I that evening (yes, I realize that’s not exactly vegetarian, but he’s not interested in beets, and hey, I’m totally accepting of a good piece of beef), I left most of my steak for my husband, and instead ate more beet salad. That’s how good it was. The recipe is written for 4 servings, but if this is going to be a large portion of your meal, or if you have a beet fanatic, I’d suggest doubling it.

I was still so enamored with this recipe that I made it again and brought it to the Dallas Food Blogger potluck this past weekend. It was a perfect potluck dish, as it can sit at room temperature, and it looks so gorgeous with the jewel-toned beets. The positive reviews sealed the deal – this is a “go to” salad in our house from now on!

Beet and Orange Salad with Basil Vinaigrette, adapted just barely from Vegetarian Planet

3 medium beets, peeled and cut into eighths

3 T olive oil

salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

1 seedless orange

2 T balsamic vinegar

3 T chopped basil, plus a few leaves for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the beets in a roasting pan and drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over the beets. Season with salt and pepper and toss until evenly coated with the oil. Bake for 40 minutes or until beets are tender and easily pierced with a fork. Allow beets to cool for 10-15 minutes.

While beets are cooling, grate the rind from the orange, and with a paring knife, peel and section the orange. (For instructions on how to section an orange, check out Amy’s tutorial over at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free.) In a bowl, combine the orange rind, any juice that accumulated when sectioning oranges, the balsamic vinegar, and the basil. Whisk together, and while whisking, slowly pour in the remaining olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place the beet and orange pieces on a large plate and spoon the vinaigrette over. Serve the salad when the beets have come to room temperatures. (Can be refrigerated overnight – the oranges will take on the red color of the beets though.)

Serves 4 as a starter.


Filed under Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Salads, Vegetarian

Daring Bakers: Gluten-Free Meyer Lemon Spotted Dick

To most Americans, this is the most humorous of names for a dish. But in England, spotted dick is a standard part of the cuisine. After welcoming it into our household, I can see why.

This month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge was brought to us by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.

I felt that I was one leg up on some of the competition just by knowing what suet was. (It’s beef fat that is stored above the kidneys) However, I’d never cooked with it. Thankfully, a local butcher had suet available for me (for cheap – $1/lb!), so I was ready to go. I opted to first try out Esther’s suggestion at a traditional British savory pudding – steak and kidney pudding.

I have tried kidney once before in my life. While I’m a huge fan of offal (LOVE me some liver, and as you know, I’m no stranger to other weird body parts, such as cow’s head), I was not fond of kidney. However, that was years ago, and I concluded that I must have not prepared it correctly the last time. Time to try again.  I began by making a suet crust, and rolling it out, and lining a bowl with the crust. I followed a recipe as instructed, and filled the crust with pieces of steak and kidney, along with some onion, carrot, and thyme. I covered the crust, and steamed it in my tamale steamer for about 5 hours. When I removed the pudding, uncovered the top, and the kitchen filled with the aroma, I immediately knew. No way was I going to be able to eat this. No offense to all of the kidney-lovers out there, but kidney is just not my thing. I even made myself take a bite or two (and the husband did the same), but I’m sorry to say, we had something else for dinner that night.

However, I was undeterred. I was still going to succeed in this challenge, and make something I liked. So I turned to the sweeter side of things. Spotted dick it was.

Spotted dick is a lightly sweet suet pudding, traditionally dotted with currants. (Hence the “spotted” part of the name.) I decided to add a few things to enhance the flavor just a bit – I contributed some golden raisins, and the zest from a meyer lemon. I steamed this pudding for about 2 hours, and topped it with a meyer lemon vanilla custard sauce. Let me tell you – although this pudding has a humble appearance, the flavors certainly deliver. It reminds me of a lighter (light in flavor, not in calories, mind you) bread pudding of sorts. The suet creates such a unique, yet addictive texture. It’s something I’m definitely going to try to incorporate instead of butter in various decadent recipes in the future.

A big thanks to Esther for challenging us! I love learning new cooking styles, incorporating new ingredients, and stepping outside my comfort zone. This one certainly challenged me!

Meyer Lemon Spotted Dick, adapted from Epicurious

For the pudding:

1 1/2 c gluten-free flour blend (I used 2 parts sweet white rice flour, 1 part cornstarch, 1 part tapioca starch)

1/3 c sugar

1 T baking powder

1 t xanthan gum

1/2 t salt

1 c cold finely chopped beef suet

8-10 T whole milk

1/2 c mixture of currants and golden raisins

zest from 1 meyer lemon

Pulse together flour blend, sugar, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt in a food processor. Add suet and pulse until mixture is evenly mixed. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Pour in milk and stir with a fork until incorporated. Knead with your hands until a slightly sticky dough is formed. Add currants, raisins, and zest and knead until evenly mixed.

Fill a large pot or steamer pot (I used my tamale steamer) with 1 1/2 inches water. Use the steamer insert, or you can make a platform by using crumbled foil or cookie cutters. Place the dough mixture in a well-buttered pudding basin or 1-quart ceramic or glass bowl, and flatten the top with your hands. Cover with a buttered piece of parchment paper (butter side facing the dough), and top with foil. Wrap the foil tightly around the edges, and tie with butcher’s twine. (Make sure it’s “waterproof” so the steam won’t seep inside and ruin your pudding.)

Bring water to a boil and set bowl on your “platform” or steamer insert. Steam pudding with your pot covered for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, checking every so often to make sure your water hasn’t all evaporated. (Add more if needed.) Remove bowl carefully from pot and place on a rack to cool for 5 minutes. Remove parchment and foil, and invert pudding onto a large plate. Serve immediately with custard sauce.

Meyer Lemon Vanilla Custard Sauce

1 1/2 c whole milk

6 large egg yolks

1/3 c sugar

pinch of salt

1 t vanilla

juice from 1 meyer lemon

Bring milk just to a boil in a medium saucepan and remove from heat. In a bowl, whisk egg yolks, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Pour hot milk into the bowl in a steady stream, whisking. Pour custard back into pan and cook over low heat, whisking, until slightly thickened. Pour through a fine sieve into a pitcher or bowl. Whisk in lemon juice and serve warm over pudding.


Filed under Baked goods, Desserts, Gluten-Free

Gluten-Free Brownie Bites and a Food Blogger Potluck

There is never enough chocolate in the world.

So I made these.

Well, actually, I had more excuses than just that. Along with a Beet and Orange Salad with Basil Vinaigrette (which I will share with you later this week), I brought these babies along to a Food Bloggers Pot Luck, hosted by the very lovely Natalie of Natalie’s Killer Cuisine.

This was the first pot luck of the Dallas area bloggers, but we all committed to each other that it certainly won’t be the last! BUNCHES of good food, good company, and lots of picture-taking!

Top row, left to right: Emily and Natalie from The City Sisters, Natalie from Natalie’s Killer Cuisine,  Joy from Joylicious, Jose from Left Field Lengua

Bottom row, left to right: Heather from Heather Bakes, Me, and Kelly from Evil Shenanigans

The food? Oh my, the food! One thing that’s great about getting a bunch of food bloggers together is that there is never a shortage of great cuisine. For some random reason, I was too busy running my mouth (surprise, surprise!) to take as many photos as everyone else, but here was the spread:

Emily brought Corn Fritters with Avocado Crema (should be posted soon on The City Sisters) – I LOVE corn fritters!

Natalie brought a Mediterranean Lentil Salad (posted on The City Sisters) – this was amazing, and reinforced my love for French lentils.

The other Natalie (the hostess) made a delicious fruit salad filled with berries and kiwi with a coconut dipping sauce, an old-school pea salad, and hummingbird cupcakes. The pea salad is on Natalie’s Killer Cuisine, and she’s promised those cupcakes for later this week.

Kelly brought the most gorgeous cake I’d ever seen (check out the photos on Natalie’s Killer Cuisine) and some baked crab cakes that looked amazing. Kelly posted the recipe at Evil Shenanigans. I want to figure out a gluten-free version!

Jose brought some slow-cooked pork shoulder, which was tender, moist, and flavorful. He even brought the crunchy skin to munch on! (Yum)

Heather brought a Tex-Mex style couscous dish. Couldn’t have it, but wow, it looked great!

I brought the aforementioned beet salad. And these.

The recipe for these brownie bites originated from my gluten-filled Best Brownies in the World recipe. I do have to confess, though, that I’ve been making these brownies gluten-free for a while now. Yet I have neglected to share with you. I apologize. No one should be without brownie goodness. So here it is, in all its glory. I present to you: Gluten-Free Brownie Bites.


Gluten-Free Brownie Bites

8 T unsalted butter

2 oz unsweetened chocolate

1 c coconut sugar (or you can substitute regular granulated sugar)

2 eggs, beaten

½ t vanilla extract

¼ c sweet white rice flour

½ t xanthan gum

1 t cocoa powder (not dutch-process)

1/2 t cinnamon

pinch cayenne

¼ t kosher salt

1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

powdered sugar, for dusting

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a mini-muffin pan or a petit fours pan with oil or butter, or line with papers. Set aside.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a medium saucepan, stirring with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and stir to make a smooth batter. Add the rice flour, xanthan gum, cocoa powder, cinnamon, cayenne and salt and mix until well incorporated. Fill mini-muffin pan or petit fours pan with batter, and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 15-18 minutes (this will vary depending on how big your “bites” will be). Let cool on a rack and remove from pan.

When brownie bites are cooled, melt the chocolate chips in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring. Turn off heat and dip the bottoms of each brownie bite into the chocolate. Set on a parchment-lined baking sheet or a Silpat. Place in refrigerator for 15-20 minutes or until chocolate has hardened. Sift powdered sugar over the tops of the brownie bites. Try not to eat all at once.

(For regular brownies, reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees, and pour batter into a 8X8 inch pan (greased). Bake for 40-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Omit the chocolate chips and powdered sugar, unless you just feel the need to add them. Of course, you could stir in chocolate chips if making regular brownies – I’ve been known to do that before!)


Filed under Baked goods, Desserts, Gluten-Free

Celiac Awareness Month, a Gluten-Free Challenge, and a Food Revolution

May is Celiac Awareness Month, and the Gluten Intolerance Group and Pamela’s Products have teamed up to bring us the first-ever Gluten-Free Challenge! Many of us adhere to a gluten-free diet every day, but in an effort to increase awareness of celiac disease and a gluten-free diet, we are challenged to spend one weekend gluten-free. The challenge takes place on May 22 and 23, 2010. If you sign up for the challenge at, they will send you newsletters with tips and recipes to assist you through your challenge, so you won’t be totally in the dark. The challenge is completely free, and there are even chances to win cool gluten-free products.

If you don’t already eat gluten-free, I encourage you to take this challenge! If you are already gluten-free, tell your family and friends. If they’re reluctant, you might share with them some helpful hints on what they CAN eat that’s simple and naturally gluten-free, (think fresh vegetables, rice, chicken, steak, potatoes, some ice cream – you get my drift.) and that they don’t have to go out and shop for expensive gluten-free products. Also, check out recipes from any number of gluten-free blogs out there (I have quite a few on my Blog Love page), as I’m sure there will be something for everyone. The goal of this challenge is not to convert everyone to gluten-free; if gluten doesn’t give a person problems, there is no reason to eliminate it. However, those that must adhere to a gluten-free diet can at times feel isolated or different. Food is often a way to bring people together and a way to share valuable time with friends and family, but when one of those family members or friends is gluten-free, they cannot always take part in the sharing of foods. This challenge is to raise awareness, and to allow everyone to enjoy a meal together gluten-free, stress-free, and with the ones they love.

Next topic of importance – I’m participating in a Food Revolution! If you aren’t familiar, ABC is currently running a series called Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Jamie Oliver (a.k.a. The Naked Chef) is on a campaign to change the way America eats. After all, so much of the standard American diet is comprised of processed and fast foods and is otherwise unhealthy. Diane Eblin of The W.H.O.L.E. Gang became inspired (as many of us did) by Jamie Oliver’s campaign, and has designed a campaign of her own. Every day for 30 days (April 26-June 4), a different food blogger will be posting a recipe that is healthy and nutritious. Diane has graciously asked me to be a guest blogger for one of the days of this Revolution! We are encouraged to remake a dish, taking something that is commonly eaten in American homes in a processed or fast food form, and recreate the recipe to be wholesome.  The goal of this Revolution is to create a resource for people looking to make changes to their lives by eating healthier. Stay tuned, and make a point to visit The W.H.O.L.E. Gang every day during this Revolution for new recipe ideas!


Filed under Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals

Kids in the Kitchen: Chocolate Ice Cream

Apparently, all of the kids wanted a chance to make  dessert. Matt chose chocolate ice cream as his dessert of choice. While we’ve made homemade ice cream in the past (this past summer, each of the kids made a different flavor), we haven’t done so specifically as part of the “Kids in the Kitchen” series. So – chocolate ice cream it was.

I don’t know why it took me years to get an ice cream maker. I suppose I just never saw the need for one – it was another appliance to take up space. But when I purchased my KitchenAid mixer last year, I received a rebate for a free ice cream maker. Of course, I took advantage – and I’ve loved it ever since! The ice cream maker attachment is simply a bowl that can be stored in your freezer, and a special paddle attachment. It mixes ice cream like a true champ – and with this recipe, you can have extremely creamy, chocolate-y ice cream that rivals the best store-bought brands. And it’s gluten-free (unlike my favorite Blue Bell Dutch Chocolate – why, oh why must wheat be in the strangest things?) What’s not to love?

Of course, Matt had to taste test every step of the way. Not that I blame him. With a bunch of creamy chocolate, who can resist? Our family devoured most of this ice cream last night, but I’m strongly considering sneaking into the freezer for a few more indulgent bites.

Chocolate Ice Cream, adapted from Alton Brown

1 1/2 oz unsweetened cocoa powder

1 c heavy cream

 2 c whole milk

1 c lite coconut milk (I had it leftover, so I thought I’d use it. You can substitute more whole milk if you’d like)

8 large, happy, free-range egg yolks

9 oz sugar

2 t vanilla extract

Place the cocoa powder and the cream into a medium saucepan and whisk. Add the  the milk and the coconut milk and whisk in. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally, and remove from heat.

In a medium bowl whisk the egg yolks with the sugar. Temper the egg yolk mixture by adding a few ladles of the milk mixture in and whisking with each addition. Pour the tempered egg yolk mixture into the remaining milk mixture and whisk until combined. Place back over medium-low heat and whisk until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon (about 175 degrees F). Pour the mixture into a freezable container and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Stir in vanilla extract, cover, and place in refrigerator for 4-8 hours.

Pour mixture into an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s directions. Place in freezer for a few hours to allow the ice cream to firm up.

Makes 1 1/2 quarts.


Filed under Desserts, Eggs, Gluten-Free

Daring Cooks: Brunswick Stew

Being a native Texan is not the same as being from the South. Sometimes, I forget this. I was reminded when I saw the challenge for this month’s Daring Cooks – we were to make Brunswick Stew. I thought to myself “What the heck is Brunswick Stew?” Brunswick, to me, conjures up images of bowling gear. Obviously, they have nothing to do with one another.

Brunswick Stew, according to Wolf of Wolf’s Den (the host for this month’s challenge), Brunswick Stew has a long, and oft debated history. Brunswick, Georgia claimed that the first Brunswick Stew was created there in 1898. There is, at the Golden Isles Welcome Center on Interstate 95, a bronzed stew pot with a plaque proclaiming this fact. However, Brunswick, Virginia claims that the first Brunswick Stew was created there by a camp cook named Jimmy Matthews in 1828, for a hunting expedition led by Dr. Creed Haskings, a member of the Virginia State Legislature for a number of years. He was said to have used squirrel in the original Brunswick Stew created for the group when they returned. The hunters were at first skeptical of the thick, hearty concoction, but upon tasting it, were convinced and asked for more. Every year, there is an Annual Brunswick Stew Cookoff that pits ‘Stewmasters’ from both Virgina and Georgia against their counterparts, and takes place every October in Georgia. In the early 20th Cent, the rivalry of the two Brunswicks helped make this dish as popular as it is today, and it quickly became a pan-Southern classic. Some recipe call for the original addition of squirrel, but most allow for chicken, turkey, ham, or pork, even beef on occasion. Rabbit is also used. The vegetables can vary widely from variation to variation, however, the Brunswick Stewmasters recipe says *exactly* what is used in competion stews, and states that “Adding any additional ingredient(s) will disqualify the stew from being an original Brunswick Stew.” However, most agree that, Brunswick stew is not done properly “until the paddle stands up in the middle.”

Well. Apparently, I’ve been under a rock my entire life, because I had no idea this dish existed, much less the importance it had. So, with Wolf’s direction, I set out to make a pot of stew last weekend. I left the recipe pretty much “as is”, except opted to leave out the rabbit out (I didn’t have time to stop by the one grocery near us that actually carries rabbit); instead I used a larger chicken to compensate. The resulting stew may have been lighter because of my change, but I certainly didn’t complain – it was bright, flavorful, and hearty. A perfect springtime stew, in my opinion. My only change for next time will be to make less of it – I opted to make the full recipe, so I have a LOT of leftovers.


Brunswick Stew, adapted from Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

1/4 lb / 113.88 grams / 4 oz slab bacon, rough diced

2 Serrano, Thai or other dried red chiles, stems trimmed, sliced, seeded, flattened (I used jalapenos)

1lb / 455.52 grams / 16oz rabbit, quartered, skinned (I omitted this)

1 4-5lb / 1822.08- 2277.6 grams / 64-80oz chicken, quartered, skinned, and most of the fat removed (I used a 6 1/2 lb chicken)

1 Tablespoon / 14.235 grams / ½ oz sea salt for seasoning, plus extra to taste

2-3 quarts / 8-12 cups / 64.607-96.9oz chicken broth

2 Bay leaves

2 large celery stalks

2lbs / 911.04 grams / 32oz Yukon Gold potatoes, or other waxy type potatoes, peeled, rough diced

1 ½ cups / 344.88 grams / 12.114oz carrots (about 5 small carrots), chopped

3 ½ / 804.72 grams / 28.266oz cups onion (about 4 medium onions) chopped

2 cups / 459.84 grams / 16.152oz fresh corn kernels, cut from the cob (about 4 ears) (I used 16oz frozen corn kernels)

3 cups / 689.76 grams / 24.228oz butterbeans, preferably fresh (1 ¼ lbs) or defrosted frozen (I used 16oz frozen lima beans)

1 35oz can / 996.45 grams / 4 cups whole, peeled tomatoes, drained

¼ cup / 57.48 grams / 2.019 oz red wine vinegar

Juice of 2 lemons

Tabasco sauce to taste

In the largest stockpot you have, preferably a 10-12 qt or even a Dutch Oven if you’re lucky enough to have one, fry the bacon over medium-high heat until it just starts to crisp. Transfer to a large bowl, and set aside. Reserve most of the bacon fat in your pan, and with the pan on the burner, add in the chiles. Toast the chiles until they just start to smell good, or make your nose tingle, about a minute tops. Remove to bowl with the bacon.

Season liberally both sides of the rabbit and chicken pieces with sea salt and pepper. Place the rabbit pieces in the pot and sear off all sides possible. You just want to brown them, not cook them completely. Remove to bowl with bacon and chiles, add more bacon fat if needed, or olive oil, or other oil of your choice, then add in chicken pieces, again, browning all sides nicely. Remember not to crowd your pieces, especially if you have a narrow bottomed pot. Put the chicken in the bowl with the bacon, chiles and rabbit. Set it aside.

Add 2 cups of your chicken broth or stock, if you prefer, to the pan and basically deglaze the pan, making sure to get all the goodness cooked onto the bottom. The stock will become a nice rich dark color and start smelling good. Bring it up to a boil and let it boil away until reduced by at least half. Add your remaining stock, the bay leaves, celery, potatoes, chicken, rabbit, bacon, chiles and any liquid that may have gathered at the bottom of the bowl they were resting in. Bring the pot back up to a low boil/high simmer, over medium/high heat. Reduce heat to low and cover, remember to stir every 15 minutes, give or take, to thoroughly meld the flavors. Simmer, on low, for approximately 1 ½ hours. Supposedly, the stock may become a yellow tinge with pieces of chicken or rabbit floating up, the celery will be very limp, as will the chiles. Taste the stock, according to the recipe, it “should taste like the best chicken soup you’ve ever had”.

With a pair of tongs, remove the chicken and rabbit pieces to a colander over the bowl you used earlier. Be careful, as by this time, the meats will be very tender and may start falling apart. Remove the bay leaf, celery, chiles, bacon and discard. (I didn’t wish to strain in order to remove all of this, so I removed the celery, the bay leaves, most of the chiles, but I left the bacon.) After you’ve allowed the meat to cool enough to handle, carefully remove all the meat from the bones, shredding it as you go. Return the meat to the pot, throwing away the bones. Add in your carrots, and stir gently, allowing it to come back to a slow simmer. Simmer gently, uncovered, for at least 25 minutes, or until the carrots have started to soften.

Add in your onion, butterbeans, corn and tomatoes. As you add the tomatoes, crush them up with your hands. Simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring every so often until the stew has reduced slightly, and onions, corn and butterbeans are tender. Remove from heat and add in vinegar, lemon juice, stir to blend in well. Season to taste with sea salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce if desired. You can either serve immediately or refrigerate for 24 hours, which makes the flavors meld more and makes the overall stew even better. Serve hot, either on its own, or with a side of corn bread, over steamed white rice, with any braised greens as a side. (I served mine with braised greens and white rice.) Serves about 12.


Filed under Budget-Friendly, Chicken, Turkey, and other Poultry, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Soups

A Trip to the Texas Hill Country and Peach Butter Coffee Cake

You’ve been so patient with me on this post, and I appreciate it! It’s taken me way longer than I anticipated to get this together. I can give you excuses about how work is suddenly crazy and it seems as though my days evaporate faster than I realize – but I know I’m not alone with this feeling, so I’ll just shut up and get on with it.


Early this year, I was trying to decide where we should go for a vacation. We needed to get away. Like so many, we cut expenses due to the economy, so we had not “vacationed” since early 2008. It was time! I didn’t wish to fly – while I’m not opposed to it, the whole airport/plane/flying thing is stressful and expensive. We were aiming for a relaxing, don’t-have-to-do-anything-we-don’t-want-to sort of vacation. We wanted relaxing and affordable. Besides, who doesn’t love a good road trip? Especially when that road trip is through some of the prettiest parts of Texas.

So Fredericksburg it was. Fredericksburg, if you’re not familiar, is an old German settlement built in the mid-1800s, about 70 miles west of Austin, in the middle of the Hill Country. It’s a great place to visit if you enjoy interesting Texas architecture (think old limestone buildings, cabins, and charm), great Texas and German food, a bit of shopping, but a lot of relaxing. And the landscape? So much more interesting than Dallas – I grew up with relatively flat land, grass, and some trees, but the Hill Country has lots of hills (duh), wildflowers in the spring, cactus, trees, the Pedernales river, and a lot of gorgeous rock. And the perfect way to enjoy it, in our minds, was to rent a cottage in the country for a few days.

We stayed in a small cottage built in the 1920s on a ranch with about 300 acres. We had everything we could want – a front porch swing, hot tub, a full kitchen – but with a wonderful country charm. It was the perfect relaxation spot. (Also the perfect spot to play with my camera – I took a lot of photos!)

When we weren’t enjoying our little place in the country, we visited places like Luckenbach, Texas. We also ate at a few amazing restaurants. (You didn’t think I would talk this whole time and not mention food, did you?) We visited August E’s, where we enjoyed an amazing upscale meal. For first course, my husband enjoyed a lobster bisque that he claimed was the best he’d ever eaten. I believe him, as his eyes did roll back a few times, and there was a significant amount of sighing and moans of pleasure while it was enjoyed! I ordered a lovely roasted beet salad with a citrus vinaigrette, topped with blue cheese. It was light and had a perfect balance of richness, sweetness, and tang from the citrus. Our main courses were no less spectacular. Hubby enjoyed a grass-fed ribeye with mascarpone whipped potatoes – his steak was one of the most flavorful, beefy steaks either of us have had. I had pan-seared escolar with sugar snap peas, carrots, and mascarpone whipped potatoes. The fish was light and subtly sweet – I savored every bite. And to my delight, they even offered a gluten-free dessert: a flourless chocolate torte. It was indeed chocolate-y – so rich, I could only eat a few bites, but it was satisfying and a perfect end to the meal.

We also enjoyed a lovely brunch at the Fredericksburg Herb Farm. This was a lovely farm that had a large variety of herbs, both for sale and for use in their kitchen. After touring the farm, we were seated on the deck to enjoy brunch. With the birds chirping, a breeze, and bountiful sunlight, we enjoyed coffee, and my husband enjoyed another steak (he’s a steak kinda guy, and hey, this is vacation), this time tenderloin, along with fried eggs and toast. I savored a spinach, goat cheese, and locally-grown herb frittata. What more could one want?

Nothing, except to take advantage of a full kitchen. I made eggs most mornings, but I was prepared – I packed gluten-free flours and other baking necessities for our trip. So I decided one morning to whip up a breakfast treat – coffee cake. On our drive in, we stopped at a fruit and plant stand, and I found a jar of local peach butter. It begged to be used in a creative recipe, so I subbed it for the apple butter in this coffee cake. What emerged from the oven was a heavenly-scented coffee cake with a lightly crispy streudel topping. It was the perfect breakfast treat.

Peach Butter Coffee Cake, adapted from

1/2 c butter

1 1/2 c gluten-free flour blend (I used a blend of 3 parts sweet white rice flour, 1 part tapioca starch, 1 part cornstarch)

1 t xanthan gum

3/4 c firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 t baking soda

1 t cinnamon

1/2 t salt

1 t vanilla

1 c peach butter (you can, of course, substitute apple butter)

1 egg

1/2 c raisins

For the topping:

1/4 c sugar

1/4 c firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/4 c gluten-free flour blend

1/4 t cinnamon

1/4 c butter, softened

1/2 c chopped nuts (I used pecans)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9-inch cake pan.

Melt 1/2 cup butter in saucepan. Remove from heat and add gluten-free flour blend, xanthan gum, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt and stir. Then add in vanilla, peach butter, egg, and raisins and mix well. Pour batter into greased cake pan.

Combine the streusel topping ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and sprinkle on top of batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool slightly, and serve with coffee.

Serves 8.

All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our trip. We even discussed visiting our little cottage again in the future – it was the perfect getaway.


Filed under Baked goods, breakfast, Desserts, Gluten-Free

Kids in the Kitchen: Fried Ice Cream

I’m guilty. Guilty of indulging our kids in crazy, unhealthy treats. When Brandan conjured up the idea of fried ice cream for his turn in the kitchen, I caved. My justification? We honestly have very little “junk” food in our house. The kids rarely have soft drinks, candy, or chips – and continually are re-introduced to vegetables in the hopes that one day, they’ll actually start eating them. So how much will a bit of fried ice cream hurt? That, and I’d never experienced fried ice cream, so I was curious to try it.

I was surprised at how easy it really was. Sure, there were several steps, but each one could be completed in a manner of minutes, and we could go back to our activities in between, while waiting for ice cream balls to freeze. It also was relatively easy to convert to gluten-free – I only had to grab some gluten-free corn flakes (I used Nature’s Path Honey’d Corn Flakes), check the ingredients in the ice cream, and we were good to go. (Those corn flakes aren’t half-bad, either. I’m not big on boxed cereals, but these reminded me how much I used to like corn flakes.)

Everyone enjoyed the ice cream quite a lot. The kids commented that the corn flake crust reminded them of an ice cream cone. While I likely won’t make this again anytime soon, (I hate frying – we buy all that oil, only to later stare at the fryer full of oil that I’ll just throw away. Yes, I realize I could strain it and re-use it, but I don’t fry often, so it’s just not really practical.) it was a fun experiment, and quite tasty!

Fried Ice Cream, adapted from Emeril Lagasse

1 quart vanilla ice cream (make sure it’s gluten-free; I used Blue Bell Vanilla Bean)

1-2 c crushed gluten-free corn flakes

2 large eggs

2 T sugar

Vegetable oil for frying

Chocolate sauce, optional

Whipped cream, optional

With an ice cream scoop, form 4 large balls of ice cream. Place on a waxed-paper-lined baking sheet (I used a Silpat) and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze for 2 hours.

Place crushed cornflakes in a shallow bowl. Roll the ice cream balls in cornflakes and freeze again for 30 minutes.

In a bowl, beat the eggs together with the sugar. Dip the coated ice cream balls in the egg mixture, and then roll in the cornflakes, coating completely. Freeze for 1 hour.

Heat the oil in a large pot or fryer to 400 degrees. One at a time, lower the balls into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 30 seconds. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place in a dessert bowl. Top with chocolate sauce and whipped cream and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Yes, I realize I’ve promised you stories about our vacation – I still plan to really soon! But for now, I’ll give you a sneak peek of a photo:

Monarc Ranch - our cottage was on 300 acres!

Happy Easter from our family!


Filed under Desserts, Gluten-Free